In a Greater Light: A Remembrance of Eli Roe

Austen Hartke

This remembrance is generously shared with us by Austen Hartke. As a transgender person of faith, Austen’s greatest passion is helping other trans and gender-non-conforming people see themselves in scripture. His book “Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians,” will be published with Westminster John Knox Press, and released on April 7th, 2018. Let Austen tell the story of how he and Eli met…

I met Eli Roe on an incredibly nerve-wracking day. It was June in Atlanta, and we were both attending a conference put on by The Reformation Project—an organization that educates and advocates for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Christian communities. It was the first time I’d ever seen this many queer Christians gathered in one place, and I’d been asked to speak on two panels in front of this crowd of wonderful people. I’d never done anything like this before, and I remember feeling full of nervous energy, hoping that I wouldn’t say anything stupid or disappoint anyone.

Immediately after the second panel I dashed off the stage and out to the reception area, where I knew there was a water cooler. My mouth was dry and my hands were sweaty, and I was ready to take a minute to just breathe.

But standing next to the stack of plastic cups was a person who looked about my age or a little younger, with eager eyes and a soft smile. They held out their hand to shake mine and said, “Hi, I’m Eli! That was so great.”

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Eli’s Mission Statement for “Receiving with Thanksgiving”

Eli wrote some wonderful words on the Receiving with Thanksgiving site, to introduce himself and to describe what he wanted to accomplish.  My heart is warmed by Eli’s energy and sense of vocation as I read these words.

Hi there! I’m Eli, one of the original members behind Receiving with Thanksgiving. I am an upcoming senior at Penn State studying Rehabilitation and Human Services and French. I am also a transgender man, a bisexual, and a Christian. In 2014, circumstances arose in my home church which brought the perceived “fight” between my LGBT identity and Christian identity very close to home. Since then, I have been dedicated to education and conversation between Christians and LGBT people, as well as the very real overlap of these populations. I do not see us as opposing sides, rather, all parts of God’s family struggling to understand the larger picture.

It hasn’t gotten any easier for any of us to live out these goals since Eli wrote them two years ago.  May God have mercy on us all as we struggle together to understand “the larger picture”.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

This was shared on the Facebook page of Receiving with Thanksgiving, the student organization that Eli helped to found (and which has continued to be active this semester).

“Today we remember the life of Eli M Roe, founding member of Receiving With Thanksgiving. We miss you, dear friend.”

(The student event was held early because of the clash with the Thanksgiving break this year.)